Frontiers in Neurology (Nov 2014)

The application of Electro- and Magneto-encephalography in tinnitus research


Journal volume & issue
Vol. 5


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In recent years there has been a significant increase in the use of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to investigate changes in oscillatory brain activity associated with tinnitus with many conflicting results. Current view of the underlying mechanism of tinnitus is that it results from changes in brain activity in various structures of the brain as a consequence of sensory deprivation. This in turn gives rise to increased spontaneous activity and/or synchrony in the auditory centres but also involves modulation from non-auditory processes from structures of the limbic and paralimbic system. Some of the neural changes associated with tinnitus may be assessed non-invasively in humans with MEG and EEG (M/EEG) in ways which are superior to animal studies and other non-invasive imaging techniques. However, both MEG and EEG have their limitations and research results can be misinterpreted in the absence of sufficient understanding of these limitations. In this article, I intend to provide a brief review of these techniques, describe what the recorded signals reflect in terms of the underlying neural activity, and their strengths and limitations. I also discuss some pertinent methodological issues involved in tinnitus related studies and concludes with suggestions to minimise possible discrepancies between results. The overall message is that while MEG and EEG are extremely useful techniques, the interpretation of results from tinnitus studies requires much caution given the individual variability in oscillatory activity and the limits of these techniques.